Trailblazer; Boeing 707

By Sumanth Bharadwaj | April 12, 2020

Boeing 707 was the first successful commercial jetliner. The mid-to-long range jet manufactured by Boeing Company created ripples across the commercial aviation market. It entered commercial service in October 1958 and remained in production until 1991. It was credited with initiating modern jet age in commercial travel.

The iconic Boeing 707 story:

Back in the 1940s when jets were being designed to be introduced into commercial aviation, a British aircraft manufacturer de Havilland introduced the world’s first jetliner called the Comet. Although famous for its high speed, airliners grounded Comets due to a wave of accidents. By then Boeing already developed its first jet-powered aircraft the B-47 bomber solely for the military. Right before the de Havilland Comet was grounded, Boeing engineers in 1952 chalked a plan to build a jet which could be used as a mid-air refueller for the Air Force and a commercial jet to carry passengers. This project was called the 367-80 later renamed as Dash-80.

The launch customer Pan Am Boeing 707 ©Wikipedia

Boeing developed this aircraft on its own as no airlines were confident enough to trust another jet-powered aircraft after a string of fatal crashes of de Havilland Comet. They set out to counter passenger’s nervousness. The company was confident that a new jet which flies double as fast as propeller-powered aircraft will be appreciated by businesses and airlines. These days hundreds of Boeing 787s are ordered even before it takes-off for its first test flight. Back then Boeing representatives invited CEOs of major airlines to watch the aircraft that travelled around the United States without a glitch. It was a shot in the arm for Boeing.

Post Introduction of Boeing 707:

Pan Am became the first airline to introduce Boeing 707 into commercial aviation. Almost every major airline around the world placed orders for Boeing 707 eventually carrying millions of passengers. It served numerous roles in military and civil aviation purposes. In fact, it was even used as Air Force One for presidential use.

Boeing 707’s cockpit with old-style analog instruments ©Pinterest

As of 2019, Boeing 707s are still in service with the Air Force being used for mid-air refuelling and AWACS missions. Until 2013, Iran’s Saha Airlines put to use Boeing 707 for commercial service before it was retired. Even today, Saha Airlines uses Boeing 707 for transport operations on behalf of Iranian Air Force.

Technical Specifications of Boeing 707:

Technical Specifications of Boeing 707 ©Boeing

One of the most important facts is that Boeing risked almost everything in its money box to design Boeing 707. The then Boeing president committed $16 million ($144 million in today’s dollars) to design Boeing 707. That was everything that Boeing collected post World War II. It was a do-or-die situation for Boeing. Ultimately it made a mark in commercial aviation with 1010 Boeing 707 being built and certainly a trailblazer.

To read about another Trailblazer; Boeing 747, click here!

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