The world’s first three-engine jet, the Boeing 727, completed its first test flight on February 9, 1963. On October 29 of the same year, Boeing delivered the first of its 727s to United Airlines. In February of 1964, the Boeing 727 was the first trijet to enter commercial flight service, and for the first 30 years of jet travel, it was also the best-selling airliner. Though its fuselage had the same width as the older 707, the 727 offered shorter takeoff and landing capability with its leading-edge slats and slotted trailing edge flaps, technology that was innovative for its time. Because of its improved takeoff and landing performance, the 727 didn’t require as much runway length as its predecessor.
Boeing was expected to sell only 250 of the 727s, but eventually delivered 1,831 of the jetliners, and during the airplane’s long service life, Boeing made many improvements to the 727.
In some variations of the aircraft, the manufacturer installed a side cargo on the main deck for ease of loading passengers, cargo, or both. In December of 1967, Boeing rolled out the 727-200, a version that had increased weight capability and an extended fuselage to accommodate more passengers. The 727-200F catered to freight companies like Federal Express, who used the airplanes to haul large numbers of pallets. Other upgrades to the 727 included more fuel capacity and increasingly powerful engines. Gross weight boosts were also implemented.
By May of 1971, the widebody jetliner became the industry standard with Boeing’s introduction of the Advanced 727-200 model which boasted the following specifications:
Maximum speed: .90 Mach
Cruise speed: 570 to 605 mph
Cruising altitude: 30,000′ to 40,000′
Length: 153′ 2″
Maximum weight: 191,000 pounds
Engine(s): Three Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofans
Crew: Three, including pilot, first officer, and flight engineer
Passenger Capacity: 148 to 189
In August of 1984, Boeing suspended production of the 727 aircraft. A month later, it delivered the last one to Federal Express. The aircraft manufacturer donated the first 727 ever built to the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Many of the 727s that remain in service have been converted to haul freight instead of passengers.