Apr 9 2021 - Apr 9 2021

Boeing 727


The Most Successful Airliner

Pan American was not primarily a short- or even medium-haul airline, but it did have pockets of such networks in its system, notably in the Caribbean and in Europe. Consequently, in its own good time, Pan Am ordered 25 Boeing 727-121s (21 was Boeing's numerical code for Pan Am) on 1 February 1965, at $4,110,000 each, to serve these routes. They were later supplemented by a large influx of 727s of both the -100 and the -200 series when it purchased National Airlines in 1980. Altogether, Pan Am had 97, an impressive number for a second-line aircraft.

The I.G.S.

One part of Europe where the Boeing 727s saw intensive service was on the Internal German Service (I.G.S.) This is a special kind of commercial airline operation which does not fall into any of the Five Freedoms of the Air categories, as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Because of the special political status of the city of Berlin, an anachronistic survival of World War II, the German national airline, Lufthansa, is not allowed to fly there; and the airline service is provided by Pan Am and British Airways, under the auspices of the Allied Control Commission.

Boeing 727s were also based in Europe to provide feeder services in that continent by a change of gauge from the wide-bodies arriving at the main European gateway airports such as London, Paris, or Frankfurt.

Clippers Galore

The Boeing 727s, and the 737s that later supplemented them on the I.G.S., bore some unlikely Clipper names. In the past many of Pan Am's aircraft had changed their names, often to be associated with the areas or cities served, as the aircraft were deployed around the worldwide network. Now many a Clipper Ship bore many a Teutonic name as well as those of the cities served, such as Stuttgart or Hamburg.

In the lists of aircraft on this and other pages, the Clipper names selected are those preferred in the Pan American permanent records. Frequently the same Boeing 727 had, at different times, as many as five different names, and the etymology and the reasoning behind the selection would make an excellent subject for a book in its own right.

Boeing 727-100: Win some Battles - and also the War

On a previous occasion, the Boeing company had been able to use its massive production strength to overcome a challenge from across the Atlantic, when the British very nearly stole a substantial portion of the airliner market by its initiative in developing the world's first jet airliner, the D.H. 106 Comet. Unforeseen problems associated with structural design denied the British their chance, and arguably luck was not on their side. Boeing cashed in on the unexpected opportunity and launched the 707.

Now in the late 1950s, history repeated itself, except on this occasion luck had nothing to do with the British failure. The same company that built the Comet, de Havilland, offered Boeing a world market, on a plate. Luck was not a factor in the appalling decisions made during the development of its Type 121, the Trident, the world's first trijet airliner, fitted with engines at the rear, like the Caravelle. Not only did D.H. shorten the original fuselage, which had been correctly sized for the market in western Europe and the United States; it also invited Boeing to inspect it, under the naive impression that some kind of cooperative production could be arranged. Boeing could not have done a better job, had they employed a team of fifth columnists to infiltrate the de Havilland organization. The Boeing 727-100 was remarkably similar to the first Trident, the one that never flew.

Off to the Races

Even with an aircraft that had lost the advantage it once had, not only in being right for the market, but also being about 20 months ahead of Boeing when it started, de Havilland put up a brave fight against the Boeing 727—for this was the aircraft that Boeing announced three weeks after arriving back from its inspection trip to the Hatfield factory in England in 1960. Boeing won important sales battles in Japan and Australia, and with the U.S. home market comfortably in its pocket, it launched the most successful commercial airliner program in history.

The Boeing 727-100 first flew on 9 February 1963, thirteen months to the day after the Trident. But it went into service well before the Trident on 1 February 1964, with Eastern Air Lines. Within four months the aircraft was delivered to all of the Big Four U.S. domestic airlines, and by the time Pan American started to receive its consignment, 727s were rolling off the production line at Seattle like Chevrolets in Detroit.

Permutations On The Pedigree

When Boeing stretched the length of the 727's fuselage to almost exactly the same length as that of the Boeing 707-320's, it must have known that its biggest problem would be to keep the market supplied. Burgeoning traffic increases had created an almost insatiable demand for short- and medium-range airliners, and the 163-seat 727-200 was ideal. The first one flew on 27 July 1967 It had only half the gross weight of the 707, as it did not need the fuel for long range. Nevertheless, it could fly 2,000 miles with full payload, and, at a pinch, this was almost transcontinental range. What airline could ask for more?

Boeing built 1,832 of both series of 727s, 1,260 of which were of the -200 series. This represented a turnover in the $10 billion dollar range, a great deal more than the annual budget of at least half of the members of the United Nations, most of which, however, managed to raise the funds to buy a Boeing or two.
  • Apr 9 2021 - Apr 9 2021

  • The Jet Era

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