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Boeing 707


The Boeing 707 is a four engined commercial passenger jet aircraft developed by Boeing in the early 1950s. Although it was not the first commercial jet airliner in service (that distinction belongs to the De Havilland Comet), it was the first to be commercially successful, and is credited by many as ushering in the "Jet Age", as well as being the first of Boeing's 7x7 range of airliners.


BOAC 707 at Heathrow Airport London in 1964

BOAC 707 at Heathrow Airport London in 1964

The 707 was based on a prototype Boeing aircraft known as the Boeing 367-80. The "Dash 80," as it was called within Boeing, cost $16 million to develop and took less than two years from project launch in 1952 to rollout on May 14, 1954. The prototype was the basis for both the KC-135, an air tanker used by the United States Air Force, and the 707. To enable the fitting of six-abreast seats, the 707's fuselage was widened by 6 inches (150 mm) compared to the original 367-80.

On August 6th, 1955, Boeing test pilot Tex Johnston performed a "Barrel roll" in the Dash-80 at 500 feet (he gained altitude to 1500 feet during the roll) not once, but twice (this story apears on a video called 'Frontiers of Flight - The Jet Airliner', produced by the National Air and Space Museum in association with the Smithsonian Institution in 1992). To date Tex is the only pilot to have performed this in a four engine jet transport (of course, other big four engine jet aircraft have done barrel rolls. The Vulcan XA890 was rolled by Roly Falk on the first day of the '55 Farnborough Airshow, but it was a subsonic bomber).

Pan Am was the first airline to operate the 707; the aircraft's first commercial flight was from New York to Paris on October 26, 1958. American Airlines operated the first transcontinental 707 flight on January 25, 1959. Many other airlines followed, and the 707 quickly became the most popular jetliner of its time, edging out its main competitor, the Douglas DC-8.

As the 1960s drew to a close, the exponential growth in air travel led to the 707 being a victim of its own success. It had become obvious that the 707 was now too small to handle the passenger densities on the routes for which it was designed. Stretching the fuselage was not a viable option because the 707's limited ground clearance made the installation of a larger undercarriage almost impossible. Boeing's answer to the problem was the first twin aisle airliner - the 747. The 707's first-generation engine technology was also rapidly becoming obsolete in the areas of noise and fuel economy.

Production of the passenger 707 ended in 1978 (the 767 acted as its partial replacement). In total, 1,010 707s were built for civil use. The military versions remained in production until 1991.

Traces of the 707 are still in many of Boeing's current products, most notably the 737, which uses a modified version of the 707's fuselage. In fact, if the 707 were still in production it would have probably evolved into what is now the 737-900, which is arguably a modernized 707 with two Turbofan high bypass ratio engines replacing the original four Turbojet engines. Interestingly the Chinese government sponsored development of the Shanghai Y-10 during the 1970s, which was a near carbon-copy of the 707.


A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels a F/A-22 Raptor

A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels a F/A-22 Raptor

Although 707s are no longer employed by major US airlines, many can still be found in service with smaller non-US airlines, charter services and air cargo operations.

The first two aircraft built to serve as Air Force One were custom-built Boeing 707s; these were also used by high-ranking federal officials on official trips. Many other countries use the 707 as a VIP transport, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Venezuela. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operated a number of 707's that were specially modified for VIP use before replacing them with modified 737's.

The U.S. and other NATO-aligned countries, as well as South Africa and Israel, have used the 707 platform for aerial refueling (KC-135) and AWACS (E-3 Sentry), although many of these aircraft are now being phased out. The Royal Australian Air force (RAAF) operates 707's as refuellers for Australia's FA/18 Hornets; these are soon to be replaced by Airbus A330 MRTT's. The 707 is also the platform for the United States Air Force's Joint STARS project, and the United States Navy's E-6 Mercury.


General characteristics

  707-120B 707-320B
(2 class)
110 147
(1 class)
179 189
Max. takeoff weight 257,000 lb (116,570 kg) 333,600 lb (151,320 kg)
Empty weight 122,533 lb (55,580 kg) 146,400 lb (66,406 kg)
Operating range (Max Payload) 3,680 nautical miles (6,820 km) 3,735 nautical miles (6,920 km)
Crusing speed 540 kt (1000 km/h) 525 kt (972 km/h)
Length 144 ft 6 in (44.07 m) 152 ft 11 in (46.61 m)
Wingspan 130 ft 10 in (39.90 m) 145 ft 9 in (44.42 m)
Tail height 42 ft 5 in (12.93 m)
Powerplants Four 75.6 kN (17,000 lbf) Pratt & Whitney JT3D-1 turbofans. Four 80 kN (18,000 lbf) JT3D-3s or four 84.4 kN (19,000 lbf) JT3D-7s.


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