America entered the age of the jet transport on July 15, 1954, when
the Boeing 707 prototype, the model 367-80, made its maiden flight from
Renton Field, south of Seattle. Forerunner of the more than 8,000 Boeing
jetliners built since, the prototype, nicknamed the "Dash 80",
served 18 years as a flying test laboratory before it was turned over to
the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in May 1972.
Production go-ahead for the Dash 80 was announced by Boeing Aug. 30,
1952, as a company-financed $16 million investment. The airplane rolled
from the factory less than two years later, on May 14, 1954. Its first
flight that July marked the 38th anniversary of The Boeing Company.
Powered then by four Pratt & Whitney JT3 turbojets, mounted under
wings swept back 35 degrees, the Dash 80 established the classic configuration
for jetliners to come. It also set new speed records each time it flew.
This was illustrated March 11, 1957, when it streaked nonstop on a press
demonstration flight from Seattle to Baltimore in 3 hours 48 minutes at
an average speed of 612 mph.
The Dash 80 was retained as a Boeing test aircraft and underwent major
structural and aerodynamic changes in the course of developing and testing
advanced aircraft features. Many test programs were aimed far beyond aircraft
flying today, such as airborne simulation of flight characteristics and
systems concepts for a U.S. supersonic transport.
The Dash 80 flew with a fifth engine mounted on the aft fuselage to
test installation feasibility for the trijet 727; and with three different
types of engines installed at the same time. It investigated engine-thrust
reversers; engine sound suppressers; rigs designed to cause in-flight engine
icing conditions; air conditioners; and wing flap and slat modifications.
It was also used to test radar and radar antennas, and even different
paints. In one test series for landing gear, the 707 prototype was outfitted
with oversized tires; it landed and took off from mud fields barely able
to support the weight of passenger automobiles.
The 707 prototype also flew special landing-approach studies at Moffett
Field, Calif., for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A
high-lift, slow speed system featuring special wing flaps for direct-lift
control was used in steeper-than-usual landing approaches designed to alleviate
community noise in airport areas.
During its early years, the airplane was the center of attraction in
the aviation world, giving many airline pilots, airline executives, military
and government officials their first taste of jet flying. It has approximately
3,000 hours of flight recorded in its log book.
The prototype led to a revolution in air transportation. Although it
never entered commercial service itself, it gave birth to the 707 series
of jetliners. Much larger, faster and smoother than the propeller airplanes
it was replacing, these quickly changed the face of international travel.
Commercial history was made Oct. 26, 1958, when Pan American World Airways
inaugurated trans-Atlantic 707 jet service between New York and Paris;
jetliners then rapidly entered service throughout the world.
The first commercial 707s, labeled the 707-120 series, had a larger
cabin and other improvements compared to the prototype. Powered by early
Pratt & Whitney turbojet engines, these initial 707s had range capability
that was barely sufficient for the Atlantic Ocean. A number of variants
were developed for special use, including shorter-bodied airplanes and
the 720 series which was lighter and faster with better runway performance.
Boeing quickly developed the larger 707-320 Intercontinental series
with a longer fuselage, bigger wing and higher-powered engines. With these
improvements, which allowed increased fuel capacity from 15,000 gallons
to more than 23,000 gallons, the 707 had truly intercontinental range of
over 4,000 miles in a 141-seat (mixed class) seating configuration.
Early in the 1960s, the Pratt & Whitney JT3D turbofan engines were
fitted to provide lower fuel consumption, reduce noise and further increase
range to about 6,000 miles.
The Offspring of the 707
Following the success of the 707, Boeing has developed seven commercial
jetliner models, each tailored to specific air route requirements. With
the family, the company has captured about 65 percent of the world's air