707/720 Commercial Transport

707 commercial transportAfter the Air Force agreed to let Boeing build commercial jets based on the prototype, 367-80, already the basis for the KC-135 military tanker, airlines began to order the 707, the commercial transport variant of the Dash 80. The 707 and the KC-135 had many features in common. Both were visually distinct, with a stinger antenna pointing forward from the top of their vertical fin.

Airlines wanted the 707 fuselage to be 4 inches wider than the tanker's. Its width and the 100-foot length made it the largest passenger cabin in the air. Placement of its 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. The exteriors of the 707 and its competitor, the DC-8, were almost identical, but the 707 wing had more sweepback, so it could fly about 20 mph faster.

To get its market share, Boeing custom-designed 707 variants for different customers; examples include making special long-range models for Qantas Airways of Australia and installing larger engines for Braniff's high-altitude South American routes. Costs of such customizing were high, so with every version of the 707, the financial risk increased. After much effort, sales of the 707 picked up. The risk-taking paid off, and the 707 outpaced the DC-8 in sales.

Although the 707s were intended as medium-range transports, they were soon flying across the Atlantic Ocean and across the continent. Boeing delivered 856 Model 707s in all versions between 1957 and 1994; of these, 725, delivered between 1957 and 1978, were for commercial use.

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 built 154 720s between 1959 and 1967. Its short-to-medium-range role was later filled by 727s and 737s.

50th anniversary of the 707

First flight: Dec. 20, 1957
Model number: 707-120
Classification: Commercial transport
Span: 130 feet 10 inches
Length: 144 feet 6 inches
Gross weight: 248,000 pounds
Cruising speed: 600 mph
Range: 3,000 miles
Ceiling: 41,000 feet
Power: Four 13,500-pound-thrust P&W JT3C-6 turbojet engines
Accommodation: Up to 181 passengers