On July 15, 1954 Boeing’s 707 (367-80) prototype completed its inaugural flight. It marked a new era for commercial air travel and set a standard for jetliners that continues today. On every flight, the 707 prototype established new speed records.
On October 26, 1958, Pan American World Airways began a regular service between New York and Paris with its 707 jets. Pratt & Whitney turbojet engines powered the first 707s, and their range was only just enough to get them across the Atlantic Ocean. It wasn’t until Boeing released the 707-320 Intercontinental jets that that airplanes could easily span the oceans. The 320 version had much greater fuel capacity, larger wings, and much more powerful engines.
In the early 1960s, the 707 received another upgrade with Pratt & Whitney JT3D turbofan engines. These further increased the airplane’s range, allowing them to travel a distance of around 6,000 miles. Fuel consumption was lower for these engines and operation was much quieter.
Boeing built several military versions of the 707 aircraft on behalf of the United States Air Force. The KC/C-135 air tanker was originally designated the 717 though it was based on the 707 prototype. Boeing produced 820 of the KC-135 tankers. A modified 707 airplane, designated the VC-127, was used by President Kennedy for official air transportation. (Eventually, any airplane used by the President would be known as Air Force One.) Several other 707 airplanes – the 120 and 320B versions – were used to transport other important government officials.
Some features of the Boeing 707 include:
Wingspan: 145′ 9″
Length: 152′ 11″
Gross Weight: 336,000 pounds
Cruising Speed: 607 mph
Range: 6,160 miles
Engines: Four Pratt & Whitney JT3D turbofans of 18,000 pounds thrust each
Before being retired and turned over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum 18 years later, the “Dash 80” 707 prototype was used by Boeing and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for extensive testing in the development of even newer and more improved aircraft. In May of 1991, after selling 1,010 of all types of 707s, Boeing ceased production of the aircraft.