My love affair with three holers continues. This week it is the Boeing 727, at one time Boeings best seller.
First flight February 9, 1963
Once the worlds most produced jet airliner until its stable mate the 737 surpassed it and the first to break the 1000 sales barrier, the B727 was designed to service smaller airports with their often smaller runways. Boeing had only the 707/720 at that time and with manufacturers all over the world planning and producing aircraft in this smaller sector with aircraft such as the DC9, Caravelle, Trident and 1-11, Boeing needed to get in on this emerging market.
Boeing had struggled, and still was, with costs from the 707 programme and the risk of producing another brand new type was one that many warned Boeing to avoid.
The brave decision to go ahead was mitigated by launch orders from United and Eastern of 40 aircraft each.
Although the aircraft retained the same cross section of the 707/720 fuselage it had a number of firsts for Boeing. It was their first jetliner to undergo rigorous fatigue testing, the first to have completely powered flight controls, the first to use triple-slotted flaps and the first to have an auxiliary power unit (APU). APU’s are commonplace now but revolutionary in the mid sixties, giving 727 operators the flexibility to operate from the more primitive airports of developing countries, without the need for ground power or starting equipment.
An interesting fact is that the infamous DB Cooper hijacking took place on a Northwest Orient Airlines 727-100, assumedly chosen due to the rear steps allowing a relatively risk free exit.
The 727 was over a year and a half behind the similarly configured HS Trident, however this British built aircraft was hampered by poor design changes pushed for by BEA.
The aircraft rolled out of the Renton plant on November 27, 1962 in an interesting yellow/copper livery and first flew on February 9, 1963. The overall success of this type was not, however, initially apparent. Boeing had a break even point of 200 airframes with the expectation of selling 250. But by the time of this first flight sales were way short of break even.
In August of 1965 Boeing announced the 200 series which subsequently first flew on July 27, 1967. It was 6.1m (20ft) longer than the -100 which allowed up to 58 more passengers although as it had the same engines only at the cost of reduced range. The first customer, Northeast introducing services in that December.
The 727-200Advanced with more powerful Pratt and Whitney JT8D engines first flew on March 3, 1972, entering service with All Nippon in July. The airframe had many variants over the years with pure cargo and combi uses. In fact many 727’s are still today in use with cargo operators but in quickly diminishing numbers.
When the Stage Three noise restrictions were being introduced some operators looked to modifications to try and meet the new regulations. Hushkits and winglets as well as simple changes to flap and slat schedules were introduced which remain today on those aircraft still in service.
These -200 series versions completely transformed the success of the type with the last of 1,832 airframes delivered to FedEx in September 1984 ending a production run of 22 years. This aircraft is in service today with T2 Aviation as G-OSRA as an Oil Spill Response aircraft.
The very first 727 to fly has been painstakingly renovated and made its very last flight on March 2, 2016, ironically the exact opposite of the inaugural flight this time from Paine Field to Boeing Field International to take up residence at the adjacent Museum of Flight.
If you are interested in a brief history of different aircraft types including first flights then take a look at my book called ‘Flying Firsts', information available by clicking the image below.