Airplanes of the Past Home Page

Boeing 707

Boeing C-135 and KC-135

Boeing Dash-80

Boeing had emerged from World War II as the leading builder of large aircraft. It was experienced at selling planes to the military, although it had not experienced large sales of its civilian airliners.

Boeing 367-80 ... "Dash 80" Roll-out in Seattle, WA
Boeing 367-80 ... "Dash 80" Roll-out in Seattle, WA

The company's development of a commercial jet airliner was a gamble on which the entire company was bet. But with the advent of the 707, Boeing succeeded.

The Boeing 367-80, the "Dash 80", was the prototype aircraft for the Boeing 707 jet airliner, the Air Force C-135 Stratolifter, and KC-135 Stratotanker. It was rolled out of the assembly line in May of 1954 from Boeing's Renton, Washington plant.

After 2,350 hours and 1,691 flights, the Dash 80 was withdrawn from use in 1969 and placed in storage. In May of 1972, it was donated to the Smithsonian, and stored at Davis-Monthan AMARG in Tucson, Arizona. In May 1990, Boeing returned the airplane to Seattle for full restoration.

Boeing Model 367-80, the Dash-80, the 707 prototype, at Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport
Boeing Model 367-80, the Dash-80, the 707 prototype, at Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport (Staff Photo)

On August 27, 2003, the Dash 80 made its final flight, to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. It is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles (see photo below).

Airline Orders for the Boeing 707 and Initial Development

The successful testing of the Dash 80 led to many orders for Boeing from multiple airlines. The first commercial orders for the 707 came on October 13, 1955, when Pan American World Airways ordered 20 aircraft.

The first flight of the first production 707-120 plane took place on December 20, 1957, and FAA certification followed on September 18, 1958.


Boeing 707 Specifications

Boeing 707 of Pan American Airways
Boeing 707 of Pan American Airways. Pan Am was the launch customer of the 707.

The commercial 707 and the military C-135 shared many similarities and components.

However, the airlines wanted the 707 fuselage to be 4 inches wider than the tanker version. Its width and the 100-foot length made it the largest passenger cabin in the air.

Placement of more than 100 windows allowed airlines to rearrange seats. Location of passenger doors on the left side, at the front and at the rear of the cabin, became standard for subsequent Boeing jets.

Its cruising speed of 575 miles an hour was 225 miles an hour faster than its nearest propeller-powered rival.

Shown below is an image of a four-engine Boeing 707 of Continental AirlinesContinental Airlines Boeing 707 showing the high frequency HF antenna at the leading edge of its tail fin


The 707 Enters Commercial Service

The 707 entered commercial service on October 26, 1958, when Pan Am flew 111 passengers on its 707-121 "Clipper America" (N711PA) from New York's Idlewild Airport to Paris in 8 hours and 41 minutes, twice as fast as a piston-engine airliner. The flight stopped at Gander, Newfoundland to refuel.

Boeing 720 and Other Variants

Boeing 707 of Trans World Airlines
Boeing 707 of Trans World Airlines

Boeing custom-designed 707 variants for different customers. It built special long-range models for Qantas Airways of Australia, and installed larger engines for Braniff's high-altitude South American routes.

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. The 707 was designated the 720 when it was modified for short-to-medium routes and for use on shorter runways. Engineers reduced the fuselage length by 9 feet, changed the leading-edge flaps and later installed turbofan engines.

Boeing 707 Production Totals

Boeing 707 of American Airlines
American Airlines Boeing 707

The final commercial 707 was produced in 1979, with the final major derivative being the 707-320, a larger intercontinental series with a longer fuselage, bigger wing and higher-powered engines. With these improvements, the 707 had an intercontinental range of over 4,000 miles in a 141-seat configuration.

The 707 production line remained open for purpose-built military variants until 1991, with the last 707 airframes built as E-3 and E-6 aircraft. A total of 1,052 Boeing 707 aircraft were manufactured by Boeing.

The 707 had become the most popular jetliner of its time, and transformed the airline industry in a short period of time. Its popularity led to rapid developments in airport terminals, runways, airline catering, baggage handling, computerized reservation systems, and other air transport infrastructure.

The success of the 707 made Boeing the leader in commercial airliners, and led to a popular family of jetliners introduced over the years: the 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, and the 787 Dreamliner.

The Evolution of the 707: 727, 737 and 747

Boeing 727, on display in Seattle
The first Boeing 727, on display
The first Boeing 737, on display in Seattle
The first Boeing 737, on display in Seattle
The first Boeing 747 "City of Everett" at Boeing Field in Seattle
The first Boeing 747 "City of Everett" at Boeing Field in Seattle

Historic Images of Boeing 707 Airliners

Boeing 707 -  British Caledonian
Boeing 707 -  British Caledonian
Boeing 707 -  BOAC
Boeing 707 -  BOAC
Boeing 707 - Lufthansa
Boeing 707 - Lufthansa
Boeing 707 - British Airtours
Boeing 707 - British Airtours