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Frontiers February 2013 Issue

Historical Perspective Risk and reward Boeing’s 727 was a 12 BOEING FRONTIERS / FEBRUARY 2013 risky bet at the time, but it became one of the best-selling jetliners ever By Mike Lombardi Even before Boeing’s 707 made its first flight in the last days of 1957, it was apparent that only the world’s major airports could handle such big jets and Boeing would need to develop a plane that could bring jet service to smaller airfields. A number of U.S. companies were already working to compete in this market, including Lockheed, Convair and, later, Douglas when it jumped in with what would become the DC-9. Boeing also faced multiple overseas competitors, including the De Havilland Trident, the Sud Aviation Caravelle and the BAC 111, all of which had the potential of shutting Boeing out of European and other international markets. Adding to Boeing’s challenges were the myriad conflicting demands from customers. Some wanted four engines; another wanted a twin; still others were satisfied with prop planes and had no interest in a jet. The harsh reality was the commercial jet business was in its infancy and Boeing was still grappling with the considerable startup and production cost of the 707. The decision to go forward on a new commercial plane was seen as a tremendous financial risk, one that many at Boeing advised against. But that new Boeing jetliner, the 727, would prove a terrific bet. It would become the first commercial airplane to break the 1,000 sales mark and it remains one of the best-selling commercial jets in history. With its distinc-tive swept-back T-tail and three engines clustered aft, the sleek 727, a plane that introduced a number of new technologies, first flew 50 years ago this month.


Frontiers February 2013 Issue
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