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 jetliner in service (that distinction belongs to the
De Havilland Comet), it was the first one to be commercially successful,
and is credited by many as ushering in the "Jet Age", as well as being the
first of Boeing's ubiquitous 7x7 range of airliners. The success of jet
airliners can be attributed to the economics of it - a 707 could do 5
times the work of a piston engine airliner such as the DC-6 at only double
The 707 was based on a prototype Boeing aircraft known as the Boeing
367-80. often nicknamed the Dash 80, the Dash made its first flight on
July 15, 1954 and was used as a prototype and testing aircraft for 18
years. The Dash 80 led both to the KC-135, an air tanker used by the USAF,
and the 707. To enable the fitting of six-abreast seats, the 707's
fuselage was widened by 6 inches compared to the original Dash-80. Today
the Dash 80 is in the Smithsonian air and space museum following a
restoration in 1991.
The original 707, the 707-120 was designed for transcontinental routes and
often required a refuelling stop when used on the North Atlantic route.
The later 707-320 and 707-420 models had larger wings, heavier weight and
more fuel tankage to operate as true transoceanic aircraft. The 707-220
was a 707-120 airframe fitted with more powerful engines for 'hot and
high' operations - only 5 of these were built, all for Braniff
International due to extremely high fuel consumption. This marque was
anyway rendered redundant by the arrival of the turbofan.
The Boeing 707 was originally fitted with four Pratt and Whitney turbojets
(JT3Cs on the -120s and more powerful JT4As on the -220s and -320s - these
are civilian versions of the military J57 and J75 engines respectively) ,
but later -120B and -320B version came equipped with four JT3D turbofans,
the latter being quieter, more powerful and fuel efficient. The 707-320C,
also turbofan-engined, had a large cargo door allowing it to serve as a
dual-purpose transport aircraft. Interestingly the 707-420 series was
produced for the British and Commonwealth markets and was powered by
Rolls-Royce Conway turbofans.
The Boeing 720, originally designated 707-020 but later changed for
marketing reasons, was a modification of the 707-120 designed for
medium-range operation from shorter runways. It was lighter and faster
than the Boeing 707, and had a simplified wing design. This model had
relatively few sales, but was still profitable due to the minimal R&D
costs associated with modifying an existing type.
Production of the 707 continued until 1991, and although it is 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
"genes" of the 707 are still in many of Boeing's current products, most
notably the 737, which still uses an adaptation of the 707's fuselage.